Act Globally, Work Locally

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-10-01

Some experts on human behavior say it takes about 21 days to establish a habit. Others say it takes only three to 10 days to start a habit but 30 days to stop one. Will a summer of staying home due to tight travel budgets, compounded by an autumn of crippling delays, break U.S. knowledge workers from their habit of getting on airplanes?

As airports gather dust, Im finding that teleconferencing software and services are becoming both more accepted and more acceptable. Im getting many more "visits" from IT vendors with stories to tell by virtual means, rather than whirlwind press tours, than I have in years past. I havent had to make my office presentable to guests for many months.

One such virtual visit was from the folks at IsoSpace (, whose collaboration software (product or service, its up to you) surpasses anything else Ive seen for ease of access and breadth of capability. You want someone to help you mark up a document? Send an e-mail invitation, and with one click, the recipients browser opens a simultaneous editing session on the document youve chosen to share. You need a public online meeting room, as well as private sessions with robust security measures? You can have both. And even over a dial-up connection, Ive found the system quick to launch and responsive during interactive use.

Yes, I know there are things you cant do without actually going there. You cant perform surgery over the phone—oops, wrong example. Using robots controlled via fiber-optic link, surgeons in New York last month removed the gallbladder of a woman in Strasbourg, France. The final obstacle to this kind of telepresence hasnt been bandwidth but lag time; France Telecom squeezed the delay on the 7,000-km connection down to 150 ms, less than half the 330-ms value that had previously been determined to be the highest tolerable latency for surgeons.

Will teleconferencing and telepresence be among the few upside opportunities to be found in the aftermath of Sept. 11?

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